Invited by the Lisson Gallery, Chinese painter Liu Xiaodong will start his first solo exhibition in London on Friday.
The exhibition, running till Nov. 2, collected 24 acrylic photo-paintings and three near-lifesize oil paintings focusing on two pubs and a Middle Eastern coffee shop.
It was named Half Street, because the three businesses were located hardly more than half a street away from the gallery.
"Restaurants and cafes could bring people closer to each other," Liu told Xinhua. A professor with the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Liu visited London during the summer vacation and spent one and a half months to finish the works.
"While I was painting in the pubs and cafe, people were curious, but didn't ask," he recalled. That was just what he needed. "I want them to remain natural."
After work, he would drink and chat with local people. "Some of them later became my friends," he said.
The two couples he painted in the pubs appeared at the press view Thursday morning as well.
Posing with their big dog, the couple from the Perseverance pub posed for photographers. Liu spent over four days during opening hours to complete his Green Pub.
While Marta Lambot, from another pub The Chapel, felt proud to see she and her husband, French chef Sebastien, together with their toddler son Francis "immortalized by the painter", she said.
"He painted with figurative brush but in a realistic way," she said, recalling that Liu was finishing his work "incredibly fast". "He spent just an hour to make the sketch," she said.
Born in 1963 to a factory worker family in northeast China's Liaoning Province, Liu recognized himself a realist and liked to paint people on large canvases. He had held solo exhibitions in the United States and Austria.
He was also involved in the film-making, becoming subject of award-winning documentaries and starring a role in the movie The Days. It was directed by his friend Wang Xiaoshuai in 1993, and entered BBC's list of the top 100 most important international films in 1999.